April 2011 Archives
April 29, 2011
Congratulations to Lauren Beukes who won the 2011 Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novel Zoo City.
It’s in my to read pile, and now gets bumped up to next! I loved her novel Moxyland but not so sure about the whole Fantasy thing in apparently in Zoo City. However now it’s Officially Science Fiction I should shut up and read it.
April 26, 2011
As a reminder, the shortlist for this year’s Arthur C. Clarke Award, which is announced tomorrow is:
- Zoo City - Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
- The Dervish House - Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
- Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness (Walker Books)
- Generosity - Richard Powers (Atlantic Books)
- Declare - Tim Powers (Corvus)
- Lightborn - Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)
I’ve now read two of the list, Lightborn and The Dervish House. And despite enjoying Lightborn a lot (review to come) The Dervish House still gets my (imaginary) vote. I can’t really tell which way the judges will go, but The Dervish House seems to have the popular momentum at the moment, having won the BSFA Award and being on the Hugo shortlist. But you never know. And I shouldn’t really comment without having read the others. Although if I did that I’d never comment on anything as I never seem to be able read an entire shortlist.
Watch The Twitter for the result tomorrow night.
April 24, 2011
April 18, 2011
Jetse De Vries had a post on Tor.com entitled The Dystopia/Utopia Dichotomy where he talks about Utopias and Dystopias and why writers seem to be writing more Dystopias and less Utopias and hardly anything that suggests a path towards Utopia…
This persistent either/or thinking (if a society in [genre] fiction is not a dystopia, then by default it must be a utopia) is what I call the dystopia/utopia dichotomy: divide the worldviews up in two easy-to-catagorise camps so that you can ignore the actual complexities of real societies. It also seems to work wonderfully well in avoiding to (try to) think of solutions, or even provide examples of solution-based thinking: it’s fine to wallow, extremely deeply in the horrible problems, but when it’s time to face up to them, we log out.
I think the answer is that it is hard to write near future utopias that suggest solutions to current problems, hence the scarcity.
It could be argued though, I suppose, that a novel like The Dervish House is somewhere in-between: it’s near future and shows a future in Turkey in which many things are better. Maybe our near future utopias are just a little too light on the utopian-ness to be recognised as such?
April 16, 2011
April 14, 2011
My story Searching, Hiding, Leaving has been published in Eschatology, which calls itself “an online journal of Lovecraftian and apocalyptic flash fiction”. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how to classify my story….
"The city was half dead when I arrived, and a quarter undead. The undead didn’t seem to know that they were not alive. The dead were stacked inside banks in the hope that somehow they would vanish."
April 13, 2011
I took part in the latest Mind Meld over at SF Signal answering the question “What was the the most recent SF/F novel or story that blew you away?”
Short answer? The Dervish House. Long answer here.
April 12, 2011
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi is full to the brim with great Science Fiction ideas there’s: a thief imprisoned in an impossible prison, a set of post-singularity minds, a clan of ultra tech gamer ancestors, a detective, some vigilante superheros, a city walking across mars and a wonderful society know as The Oubliette.
The Oubliette is destined to become a classic, it’s a society where every ounce of personal information about you is controlled by cryptography, the Gevulot as it is known. A citizen can control if someone sees them, can remember them, can know anything about them. There’s a great lines that says “there are three things they do better than anyone here: wine, chocolate and cryptography.” I love this idea. My love helped by that fact that during my reading of the novel, in the real world, I was fighting x509 cryptographic certificates which was a lovely synchronicity.
On top of that citizens can share memories which adds a whole new form of communication. Ideas layered on ideas. Hannu really went for it, there was no holding back, no ideas squirrelled away for the sequel. The quantum tech is splattered everywhere, as the enabler to all these cool ideas. It doesn’t matter whether it’s possible or not, it doesn’t matter that a quark-gluon plasma bullet is unlikely, it sounds cool.
The whole novel is joyfully dense with cool stuff, you have to keep up, and I love that.
The plot however is more lumpy. It ends in a chaotic climax with revelations and twists and high octane stuff but it feels a little forced at times, which I know sounds weird as plots are artificial, but some plots have an inevitability about them that is impossible to see but obvious when they happen as if there was no other choice. At times in The Quantum Thief I found myself asking “why?” not just about the plot complications but also about the character’s motivations. Also, the start felt a bit weak to me too, relatively speaking, things really pick up when the Oubliette is revealed in all it’s glory.
But these are minor gripes, The Quantum Thief is dense and fun and crazy and overall very enjoyable. I’ll definitely be checking out anything else by Hannu, when he hooks up the perfect plot with all those ideas he’ll produce the most awesome novel.
April 4, 2011
Long overdue, what did I think of Outcasts?
Well, I had high expectations, coming from the same production stable as Spooks and Hustle, both of which have been entertaining and fresh. And unfortunately Outcasts didn’t live up to those expectations.
What I was hoping for was an exploration of why creating a new society is hard, of the human struggles to craft something new. And there were hints: the virus that wiped out the kids, the clones blamed for the virus. But all too soon it seemed to resolve to cliché with the unknown alien force and the rebel clones. In some ways the attempt to make the plot larger scale, with aliens and incoming settlers, actually detracted from the big picture of creating a new life. I wanted some explanation of why they hadn’t spread out, of the difficulties they faced. I wanted more of Jamie Bamber and the style of the first episode, which promised quite a lot. I wanted Outcasts to be itself, to carve out a unique identity and not settle for a bit of Lost and a bit of BSG.
There were glimmers of what it could have been, which is what made watching it so frustrating.
The reaction to Outcasts seemed to be overall, negative. Including being moved from it’s Monday slot to Sunday, during the series. That never happens in the UK, due to the shorter series length. Someone at the BBC didn’t like what they saw. Consequently it’s not coming back. I can only hope that it hasn’t set back the possibility of getting a quality UK Science Fiction TV show. Bur it probably has.
Meanwhile UK film makers like Duncan Jones and Gareth Edwards have been producing awesome SF films. Maybe this will filter through to TV eventually?
Things I most want this week:
- Source Code. SF film, Duncan Jones directing, Quantum Leap meets Speed? Yes please.
- Limitless and The Adjustment Bureau. Both lower down the wish list than Source Code but still, SF, and one inspired by PKD.
- Doctor Who. Coming Soon. (Press night tonight apparently.)
- Someway to split myself in two so I can read Lightborn and Natural History at the same time, right now.